More than 90% of finance leaders in Singapore view people as an organisation’s most important asset, said ACCA recently when releasing a report based on a survey of more than 160 finance leaders jointly done with EY.
While it’s through people that digital initiatives can be driven and gaps between current and desired digital culture within their finance teams can be closed, having a strong digital culture with clear strategies is what sets successful digital transformation apart, survey results indicated.
However, results also revealed that finance leaders feel that more can be done to improve their current culture, with 78% of respondents agreeing that the culture of their finance teams needs to change if they are to continually engage in digital innovation and consistently seek process improvements through technology.
Main barriers and how to address them
The main barriers of having a strong digital culture, according to respondents, include a lack of frameworks and metrics to assess digital culture, a lack of clear digital strategy, finance team not being proficient in digital technologies, and too many competing priorities.
To address challenges, finance leaders are required to take multi-pronged, consistent and concerted approaches, ACCA advised.
They include introducing initiatives that enhance the various elements of digital culture within their teams, such as communicating clearly from the top on the importance of innovation as well as allowing finance staff to take on more proactive roles in the organisation and contribute to key business decisions, the organisation added.
“The finance team sits at the intersection of business functions across the organisation, said Ronald Wong, Singapore Financial Accounting Advisory Services Leader and Partner, Ernst & Young LLP. “As such, having the right digital culture to drive the effective adoption of technology becomes an imperative in order to enable the finance team to play a unique and strategic role that drives business outcomes.”
Four key elements of digital culture
The report introduces four main elements of digital culture: organisational structure, people, strategies, processes and policies, and technology, ACCA pointed out, adding that these are practical steps that finance leaders can take to drive a positive shift in digital culture.
Organisational structure can either enable or hinder collaboration, agility and innovation, according to the report.
For a company to be adaptive and agile, the leadership team has to step away from the traditional hierarchical organisational structure to empower people across different functions within to make decisions that will affect change, ACCA advised.
Combining smart technologies with the brains, emotional intelligence and interpersonal skills of talented people, finance leaders need to also look at recruiting, harnessing and retaining people with skills and motivation to complement technological innovations, embracing rapid change, evolving roles and new approaches, the organisation noted. This would include designing a future-fit finance operating model that can focus on data-driven decision-making and challenge the current skill sets of the finance talent, ACCA added.
The third element – strategy, processes and policies – covers the importance of having lean, effective and efficient finance processes to enable finance teams to continually extract value from new technologies adopted, ACCA said.
The fourth element is technology, where finance leaders need to challenge assumptions and encourage experimentation while managing risks inherent in each technical innovation, ACCA noted.
This would also mean harnessing better data and analytics through having a clear data strategy and establishing a data governance framework within the organisation, the organisation added.
“Organisations need to look at the innovations available for them to transform and grow in today’s digital world. And who else to explore the opportunities than the people within the organisations themselves? This is why having a digital culture is important, to not just enable the adoption of technology but also the successful implementation of it to drive the success of the business,” said Joseph Alfred, head of policy, ACCA Singapore.